Type I diabetes mellitus is a chronic, endocrine disorder in which the pancreas does not produce insulin. This causes a high level of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Type I diabetes can occur at any age, but it is also referred to as juvenile diabetes because it is most often diagnosed in children, adolescents, or young adults.
Insulin is a hormone that is produced by special cells in the pancreas, called beta cells. Insulin is necessary for the body to use glucose for energy, so when there is little to no insulin, the glucose level in the blood stream increases. This is referred to as hyperglycemia.
While the cause of diabetes is unknown, it is suspected to be an autoimmune disorder. In individuals with type I diabetes, their bodies attack and kill the beta cells in the pancreas, causing little to no insulin to be present. Approximately 5% of people with diabetes have Type I diabetes.
Blood tests are used to diagnose Type I diabetes, such as blood glucose, oral glucose tolerance test, and Hemoglobin A1C. As part of treatment, individuals with diabetes are instructed to test their blood glucose levels multiple times per day using a home test kit.
Insulin can be administered by injections or an insulin pump. Inhaled insulin recently has been approved by the FDA, but it is not currently a common treatment.
An insulin pump is a wearable, medical device that continuously delivers a basal rate of insulin to keep the blood glucose level stable. When an individual eats or needs extra insulin for high blood glucose, he or she directs the pump to deliver a bolus to deliver the correct amount of insulin needed.
Another wearable piece of technology is a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM). These often are used in conjunction with insulin pumps. While using a CGM, a small sensor takes samples from the fluid under the skin to monitor the blood glucose levels. This can be helpful to warn users of high or low blood sugar and help the patient’s medical team better control his or her blood sugar levels.
There can be numerous complications as a result of Type I diabetes, particularly in individuals who do not have tight control of their blood sugar levels. Prolonged periods of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) can result in dangerous complications including neuropathy, retinopathy, kidney failure, heart disease, ketoacidosis, and death. These complications can be reduced or eliminated with tight control of blood sugar levels.
Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) occurs when too much insulin is in the blood stream, causing blood glucose levels to go too low. Symptoms of hypoglycemia include sweating, dizziness, shakiness, hunger, and weakness. If untreated, hypoglycemia can result in seizures and/or death. Repeated episodes of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can result in a condition referred to as hypoglycemia unawareness, which results in an individual being unable to feel the symptoms of low blood sugars. This can be dangerous, as it can prevent the individual from treating the low blood sugar. Again, the severity of this complication can be reduced with tight control of blood sugar levels.
Medical listing 109.08 — Juvenile diabetes mellitus requiring parenteral insulin
The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes that diabetes can be a disabling condition, regardless of the type. It is listed in Part B of the SSA’s list of impairments. Because the severity of diabetic symptoms varies, the diagnosis alone is not sufficient to establish disability.
If your child requires daily insulin injections and he or she has not yet reached the age of 6 years old, your child may qualify for disability benefits.
Once your child reaches 6 years old, the Social Security Administration evaluates the symptoms he or she experiences as a result of the condition (such as neuropathy or seizures) to evaluate disability.
Your representative can help you determine whether your child’s diabetes is severe enough to qualify for disability benefits under the guidelines of the Social Security Administration.